Victor Schlich, 84

PASSAGES: Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and circle of friends in lasting ways.

Published on July 6, 2004 Page: B9
© 2004- Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc.
by Josie Huang staff writer

No one expected an aspiring reporter from New York City to correctly spell the name of a small Maine town.

So when Victor Schlich got "Millinocket" right during a 1947 tryout at the Portland Press Herald, it was impressive enough to land him a reporting gig.

It was a turning point in Mr. Schlich's life. He had studied to be a civil engineer like his German immigrant father, and served as one during World War II. Finally, he could follow his true passion.

"He had a way with words," said his wife, Madeline. "Sometimes he said it was easier to write than to talk."

Mr. Schlich, who went on to a lengthy journalism career in Maine, died unexpectedly July 4, 2004. He was 84.

Reporting brought Mr. Schlich out of his shell. An only child, he was shy and serious-minded, spending much of his youth reading and working in libraries, shelving books.

Madeline Kimbell, an outgoing young woman he met in a youth church group in 1938, seemed to be the opposite. After numerous attempts to ask her out failed, he saved up enough money to take her to Radio City Music Hall in 1940.

More dates followed, but then World War II broke out. Mr. Schlich, who had served in Panama during part of 1940 and 1941 as a member of the Naval Reserve, re-enlisted in 1942 and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. He and Madeline continued to correspond, and on his 20-day leave in 1944, they married.

On a trip to Portland after the war, his brother-in-law - a newspaper copy editor - encouraged him to stop off at the Portland Press Herald to try out for a position.

Once he got the job covering Greater Portland schools, he and his wife moved to Maine, and never left. They raised their daughter, Nancy, and son, Stephen, in South Portland, where they instilled in them a work ethic and accountability.

After more than six years at the newspaper, Mr. Schlich tried his hand at anchoring and writing for the evening news program at Maine's first television station, WPMT-TV.

When the station folded after NBC and CBS entered the Maine market, Mr. Schlich became a free-lance writer. For 14 years in between, he headed a Portland advertising agency, Adventures, Inc.

He retired in 1970, and spent much of his time working with AARP, borrowing mystery novels from the library and taking adult education courses around the country with his wife through the Elderhostel program. He also followed the Boston Red Sox religiously after his childhood team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, moved to Los Angeles in 1958.